CSI Eugene: How police recreate crash scenes

CSI Eugene: How police recreate crash scenes »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- What do algebra and geometry have to do with piecing together a car accident? 

Distance, angles and rates of speed all add up to piecing together an accident scene.

The Eugene Police Department's crash reconstruction team started using a new computer-aided drawing program in the last six months to render 3-D models of car accidents.

So how do you get from this ... ... to this?

The work begins at the scene of an accident. Officers use a laser measuring device and reflector to measure hundreds of points, everything from the location of cars to the widths of roads to little pieces of vehicles strewn across the street, even dirt displaced by a crash.

"Typically the only thing you'll see on the ground is the dirt that collects on the undercarriage of a vehicle gets knocked loose and fall straight down at the moment the crash happens," said Officer Ben Hall with the Eugene Police Department, "so a lot of times we're looking for stuff like that."

Officers enter data into a handheld device records the data, then upload the info to the computer back at the department.

At first it looks like a mess of dots, but after a few clicks of the mouse you can see the accident scene start to take shape.

Before computers, an investigator would spend days drawing the scene. Now it takes 10 hours to create a model and a few more hours to animate it.

Investigators use the same program and tools to process crime scenes.